June 16th - June 22nd, 2012
Cuomo and Christie Ask National Park Service To Assist 9/11 Memorial
June 16 - New York Gov. Andrew Cuomoand New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are appealing to the federal government for help bankrolling the September 11 museum at the World Trade Center, which sits in limbo as construction costs have soared. The New York Times and other news outlets reported that the two governors asked the National Park Service to step in and help stabilize the finances of the museum and memorial at the WTC site. The cost of the project, once estimated at $680 million, has skyrocketed to $1.3 billion and could reach $1.466 billion. Sources with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, owner of the site, have confirmed those lofty numbers. But the foundation that runs the museum -- and is headed by Mayor Bloomberg -- has downplayed the costs, claiming the final budget will be in the area of $710 million. One source says Cuomo and Christie's move after more than a year "is a sign that the financial issue has not been resolved."
9/11 Pension Boosts for Time Spent on The Pile
June 17 - More than 700 retired cops and firefighters have switched their pensions to a special 9/11-related disability status since the state permitted them to do so in 2006, the Daily News reported. Documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request reveal for the first time the demand for the WTC disability benefit, which gives a pensioner three-quarters of their final pay per year, largely tax free. The records show that 428 retired firefighters and chiefs along with 287 cops and police brass have convinced city pension boards that they developed 9/11-related health ailments since leaving their jobs. Under related laws, it is automatically presumed that a retirees cancer, heart or lung ailments are 9/11-related, even if there are other possible causes, such as smoking. The requirement is that the retiree must have spent a minimum of 40 hours at Ground Zero, either on 9/11 or during the recovery phase. City Hall officials feared the measures would cost $50 million annually, placing a major strain on the pension system. The bills backers, however, estimated the expense at about $5 million a year.
Eight Occupy Protesters Convicted of Trespassing
June 18 - Eight protesters with Occupy Wall Street were convicted on Monday of misdemeanor trespassing charges for entering a lot owned by a Manhattan church a month after their park encampment was dismantled, according to the Associated Press. A Criminal Court judge found the protesters guilty after a weeklong nonjury trial and sentenced seven of them to four days of community service. The eighth defendant was also convicted of two other misdemeanors -- attempted criminal mischief and attempted criminal possession of burglars tools -- and was sentenced to 45 days in jail. The defendants were charged after a Dec. 17 episode in which protesters went over a chain-link fence or crawled under it to get to a lot owned by Trinity Church. The original camp in Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan was shut down in November. Protesters, whose campaign opposed financial inequality, had wanted officials at Trinity to let them occupy the church-owned property but the request was refused. Since Sept. 17, more than 2,500 arrests in Manhattan have been linked to Occupy Wall Street, she said, and about two-thirds of these cases have been resolved through noncriminal dispositions, leaving those defendants with no criminal record or fine.
Pier A Renovation Project On Track for Late-2012 Completion, but Costs Rise
June 20 - Two recent presentations by Gwen Dawson, the senior vice president of asset management at the Battery Park City Authority, paint a detailed picture of progress in the restoration of Pier A, the historic structure that sits at the border between Battery Park City and Battery Park. The Broadsheet reported that in a June 5 presentation to the Battery Park City Committee of Community Board 1, Ms. Dawson repeated the BPCAs assurance that its portion of the work on Pier A will be completed by December 31 of this year, at which point the project will be handed over to the commercial tenant (a partnership between the Poulakakos restaurant organization and the McDermott real estate company) that plans to operate a restaurant there. They expect to open Pier A to the public sometime in mid-2013. In a June 19 presentation to the BPCA board, Ms. Dawson outlined the financial background to the Pier A project. The rehabilitation of the roof will require an additional $380,000 over the original budget, to cover repair of elements that were too severely damaged to be salvaged. Design work on the plaza in front of the pier will cost $245,000. And LiRo, the company managing the project for the BPCA, will be paid an additional $647,000 for supervising the project through the end of this year. This fee includes a premium for accelerating work on various aspects of the project to ensure completion by the close of 2012.
9/11 Cancer Link Lacks Scientific Evidence, Experts Say
June 20 - Several experts say there is no hard evidence to support the federal government's declaration this month that 50 kinds of cancer could be caused by exposure to World Trade Center dust, according to the Associated Press. The decision could help hundreds of people get payouts from a multibillion-dollar WTC health fund to repay those ailing after they breathed in toxic dust created by the collapsing twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001. But scientists say there is little research to prove that exposure to the toxic dust plume caused even one kind of cancer. And many acknowledge the payouts to cancer patients could take money away from those suffering from illnesses more definitively linked to Sept. 11, like asthma and laryngitis. This month, Dr. John Howard, who heads the federal agency that researches workplace illnesses, added scores of common and rare cancers to a list that had previously included just 12 ailments caused by dust exposure. Lung, skin, breast and thyroid cancer were among those added; of the most common types of cancer, only prostate cancer was excluded. When the twin towers collapsed, much of Lower Manhattan was enveloped in a dense cloud of pulverized glass and cement that left people in the area gasping for air. Fires smoldered in the rubble pile for weeks. Many workers labored in the ash wearing only flimsy paper masks, and went home coughing up black phlegm. Years later, some were still experiencing mild respiratory problems. After Sept. 11, the government established the Victim Compensation Fund, which paid out about $7 billion for the nearly 3,000 deaths from the attacks and for injuries, including some rescuers with lung problems.
4 World Trade Will Top Out on Monday, a Day or So Ahead of 1 WTC
June 21 - Last week, President Obama visited 1 World Trade Center for a project construction update, reported the New York Observer and other news outlets. He gave a speech and signed the beam that would top the country's maybe-tallest tower. It would still be some time until the beam was hoisted into place. Meanwhile, on the other end of the site, 4 WTC was quietly rising. Today, Silverstein Properties announced that the tower will have its topping out ceremony this Monday, June 25th, when the building reaches its final height of 974 feet. What about 1 WTC? The Port Authority did not respond to requests for comment as to when its topping out ceremony might be, but a WTC source said it could come as early as Tuesday.